POST BY: Jen Madge – The BSN’s Deputy Head, Whole School Assessment
I was lucky enough to attend the ResearchEd conference in Amsterdam last week; this is the conception of , where teachers, professional researchers and academics gather to give workshops on research-based topics. The idea: to engage teachers in a more academic and scientific approach to their profession.
There are arguments for our profession participating in research as a whole that are sound. Could our profession be more scientific and forward thinking in order to innovate successful policy change from within? Could our professional voices be louder and more influential if backed by research?
Personally, I engage with research on a more minor level; I am excited to engage my brain academically and learn about my profession in order to inform the decisions I make. I have found the level of professional dialogue, a lot of it challenging, that arises from engaging with educational research, to be invigorating. Questioning and challenging enables our thinking to evolve; we expect this of our students, so why not of ourselves?
Tom Bennett’s advice is to start small in order to find a place for research in your very busy day. ‘The Science of Learning’ produced by Deans for Impact summarises current research and provides small chunks of practical inspiration. The Education Endowment Foundation is another organisation that aims to help teachers use evidence-based research to inform their practice. Many research-based books about education are absorbing reads. I would recommend ‘ Seven Myths about Education’ by Daisy Christodoulou and I am just about to start reading ‘Why Don’t Students Like School’ by Daniel T. Willingham, as recommended by many presenters at ResearchEd. Tom Bennett also suggests gathering with your colleagues to discuss the information you have gleaned; an important step in the process of learning and forming ideas.
For me, Twitter has been a significant facilitator in my relationship with research; initially cynical about the ways in which social media could contribute to my professional development, I have been awakened by the vast knowledge and expertise that this platform immediately connects me to. It is also a great leveller; there is a flat rather than hierarchical structure and you have access to the thoughts of great minds in the field and the ability to challenge these – an amazing tool for your own development if you choose to use it. There seem to be more people writing about the ‘science’ of education than ever before in coherent and intelligent ways; an exciting advance for our profession.
One word of warning: be ready to be challenged. By the end of the ResearchEd conference, many of my own personal beliefs about teaching had been questioned without apology and many of the ideas that I had been taught had been labelled as myths. Some of these ideas were no surprise but some shook my foundations and shifted my paradigm.
It was wonderful. As Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”